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Meet the people who will help Gov. DeSantis decide how to reopen Florida for business

Task force includes 2 Florida cabinet members, Publix CEO and mayors from hardest hit counties

ORLANDO, Fla. – Amid growing unemployment claims, Gov. Ron DeSantis has tasked a group of state elected leaders, county mayors and officials from businesses including Disney World and Universal to help shape the plan to reopen the Sunshine State for business after the coronavirus pandemic.

While officials say the statewide stay-at-home order and social distancing are working to flatten the curve -- a decrease in new cases and deaths -- of the respiratory illness Florida’s death toll reached 839 on Tuesday.

Florida remains under a stay-at-home order until April 30. The Re-Open Florida Task Force executive committee will spend the week developing plans to reopen the economy while minimizing close contact at businesses. Meanwhile, the governor has also created an Industry Working Group task force to tackle tourism, construction, real estate, recreation, retail and transportation issues.

Since March 15, about 650,000 Floridians have filed initial claims with the state’s Department of Economic Opportunity, which administers unemployment benefits. Many thousands more appear to have been unable to submit applications due to problems with the DEO website and call centers.

An online dashboard the department unveiled Monday underscored how far behind Florida is. As of Tuesday, it showed that the state has paid about 14% of claimants and processed claims from fewer than a quarter of those applying for benefits since March 15.

On Monday, the governor hosted the first teleconference meeting of the task force to introduce the group and lay the ground work for decisions to reopen the state.

Florida Chamber of Commerce Chairman and CEO Mark Wilson was introduced as chairman of the group, the state’s Emergency Management Director Jared Moskowitz, Surgeon General Scott Rivkees and Secretary of the Agency for Healthcare Administration Mary Mayhew were also on the call.

[READ: These local leaders will decide when and how Orange County’s economy will reopen | Coronavirus: 5.2 million more file for unemployment in US]

The 22-member executive group includes one professional from the medical community, Tampa General Hospital CEO John Couris. It also includes the mayors of Florida’s three counties hardest hit by coronavirus, Miami-Dade, Palm Beach and Broward.

Executives from companies with a large footprint in Florida including Publix, Lockheed Martin, Disney and Universal will also serve on the task force.

Florida cabinet members CFO Jimmy Patronis and Attorney General Ashley Moody were selected to be on the task force. Notably Department of Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, the only democrat on the cabinet, is not on the task force.

Fried released a statement Monday saying she was not asked to serve on the task force along with her fellow Florida Cabinet members.

“This is sadly more of the same politics over state from the Governor. I was not asked to serve alongside my fellow Cabinet members on the task force, which has no voice on its membership representing Florida’s $137 billion agriculture industry," Fried said. "That is deeply concerning given the impacts of COVID-19 on Florida’s second largest industry, and given the progress my team has made working with federal, state, local, and retail partners to reduce negative impacts to Florida agriculture. It’s equally concerning that the Governor neglected to mention agriculture on the initial call – I hope he will join my commitment to supporting our farmers and feeding our families.”

These are the people on the executive committee selected to help the governor determine how to best reopen the state for business:

  • Florida Lieutenant Governor Jeanette Nuñez, Republican
  • Florida Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis, Republican
  • Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody, Republican
  • Florida Senate President Bill Galvano, Republican
  • Florida House of Representatives Speaker Jose Oliva, Republican
  • State Sen. Wilton Simpson, president-designate, Republican
  • State Rep. Chris Sprowls, speaker-designate, Republican
  • Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran, Republican
  • Enterprise Florida President & CEO Jamal Sowell, Republican
  • Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez, Republican
  • Broward County Mayor Dale Holness, Democrat
  • Palm Beach County Mayor David Kerner, Democrat
  • John Couris, President & CEO, Tampa General Hospital
  • Josh D’Amaro, President, Walt Disney World Resort
  • Todd Jones, CEO, Publix Super Markets
  • Syd Kitson, Chairman, Board of Governors for the State University System
  • Paul Reilly, Chairman & CEO, Raymond James Financial
  • Alex Sanchez, President & CEO, Florida Bankers Association
  • Eric Silagy, President & CEO, Florida Power & Light Company
  • John Sprouls, CEO, Universal Orlando Resort, Executive Vice President, Universal Parks & Resorts
  • Patrick Sunderlin, Vice President, Global Supply Chain, Lockheed Martin Corporation
  • Joe York, President, AT&T Florida and Caribbean

The task force will also two have web meetings on Tuesday to continue discussions and continue to meet throughout the week.

The industry task force includes hotel company executives, airline executives, restaurant owners, again the mayors of Florida’s hardest hit counties and the CEO of Florida’s tourism arm Visit Florida, along with Florida Department of Transportation Secretary Kevin Thibault.

In a call Tuesday morning, the industry task force discussed the impacts of opening or not reopening all of Florida’s beaches and what dining out in Florida could look like when the governor’s executive order, closing all dine-in eating lifts.

Last week, Florida’s governor gave the green light for some beaches and parks to reopen, and north Florida beaches became among the first to allow people to return since closures because of the coronavirus.

The Restaurant People CEO Tim Petrillo said his company, which has 45 restaurants in five states, laid off 95% of their staff and he is concerned about hiring some workers back as many had to move out of state.

“In regards to reopening, what’s very important is we have a schedule from the federal government as to how we reopen," Petrillo said. “What’s it going to look like?”

If restaurants are required to reduce capacity to 50% what will that look like, Petrillo asked, and how will his staff enforce social distancing between guests?

Restaurant Brands International CEO Jose Cil said restaurants need to have a “clear view of enhanced restaurant hygiene and safety" when they reopen.

The Miami-based company includes brands such as Burger King and Popeye’s.

“We need to have health screening questionnaires for mangers to employ in all of the restaurants," Cil said, adding his company has started with short questionnaires for staff and are taking temperature checks daily.

“Ultimately the issue we need to address is restaurants are a safe place to go ... and the steps we’ve taken for team members and guests," Cil said.

Below are the members of the Reopen Task Force Industry Working Group:

  • Visit Florida President and CEO Dana Young
  • Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation Secretary Halsey Beshears
  • Florida Department of Transportation Secretary Kevin Thibault
  • Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry
  • Palm Beach Mayor David Kerner
  • Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association Chairman Sheldon Suga
  • Caspers Co. CEO Blake Casper
  • Amy Schwartz, Owner, Bella Bella Restaurant
  • Collier Merrill, President, Merrill Land Company
  • Philip Goldfarb, President & COO, Fontainebleau Miami Beach
  • John Tolbert, President & Managing Director, Boca Resort and Club
  • Jose Cil, CEO, Restaurant Brands International
  • Josh D’Amaro, President, Walt Disney World Resort
  • John Sprouls, CEO, Universal Orlando Resort, Executive Vice President, Universal Parks & Resorts
  • Tim Petrillo, Co-Founder & CEO, The Restaurant People
  • Dev Motwani, President & CEO, Merrimac Ventures
  • Chad Harrod, CEO, Harrod Properties, Inc.
  • Walter Carpenter, Chairman, NFIB Florida Leadership Council
  • Len Brown, Executive Vice President & Chief Legal Officer, PGA Tour, Inc
  • Gary Lester, Vice President, The Villages for Community Relations
  • Glen Gilzean, President & CEO, Central Florida Urban League
  • Max Alvarez, President, Sunshine Gasoline Distributors, Inc.
  • Tom Crowley, CEO, Crowley Maritime Corporation
  • Joe Lopano, CEO, Tampa International Airport
  • Ted Christie III, President & CEO, Spirit Airlines
  • Rick Sasso, President & CEO, MSC Cruises
  • Maury Gallagher Jr., Chairman & CEO, Allegiant Air
  • AJ de Moya, Vice President & General Manager, The de Moya Group, Inc.
  • Paul Anderson, CEO, Port Tampa Bay
  • Ken Stiles, CEO, Stiles Corporation
  • Bob Flowers, President, C.W. Roberts Contracting, Inc.
  • Rob Kornahrens, President & CEO, Advanced Roofing and Green Technlogies
  • Monesia Brown, Director of Public Affairs and Government Relations, Walmart
  • Cody Kahn, Owner, Holiday Inn Resort
  • Matthew Caldwell, President & CEO, Florida Panthers Hockey Club

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